“Jumping the shark” is a phrase used in Hollywood to describe a moment in a television show when a moment of absurd over-reaching occurs that marks the beginning of the end for that show’s premise. It feels like something similar is happening with the Congressional Republicans as they now insist with a straight face and not even a sense of irony that they will not pass the Senate’s payroll tax extension because it’s “not fair” to American workers.
Just days before Christmas, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Monday morning that the GOP House conservatives are likely to walk away Monday night from the agreement hobbled out over the weekend between Senate Republicans and Democrats to extend the payroll tax by two months. They are apparently worried about how the roughly $1,000 tax cut to the poor and middle class – many LGBTs with no non-discrimination employment protections – would be paid for, something that never seemed to bother Republicans when they passed the Bush tax cut for the nation’s top 1% of millionaires and billionaires. Indeed, a group called the Patriot Millionaires has asked for the Bush tax cutes to expire to help the country return to fiscal strength.
From TruthOut: “According to the National Priorities Project and Citizens for Tax Justice, the first decade of the Bush tax cuts, from 2001 to 2010, cost $955 billion; the Obama extension, from 2011 – 2012, cost $229 billion; the proposed extension, from 2013 to 2021, would cost $2.02 trillion; the total cost is $3.2 trillion.”
Until Sunday when the war in Iraq officially ended, those tax cuts were granted while the country was fighting a bogged-down war in Afghanistan and a pre-emptive war in Iraq, which was not “paid for” in advance. Nor was the “Part D” Prescription Drug bill that created a whole new bureaucratic nightmare for seniors. According to RXRights: “Part D is expected to run an unfunded tab of more than $700 billion in its first 10 years. Unlike other government-run health insurance programs, Medicare cannot negotiate drug prices with manufacturers. That ban was part of the 2003 legislation.”
One would think that the Republicans – many of whom signed lobbyist Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform’s pledge to never raise taxes – might consider failure to extend the payroll tax cut as in fact a tax increase. That was what many argued during the summer during the knock-down, drag-out fight over deficit spending.
BUT Norquist himself gave the Republicans an unexpected pass at the time, per Raw Story:
A loophole in Americans for Tax Reform’s anti-tax pledge may give the 235 House Republicans and 41 Senate Republicans who signed it a way to raise revenues without breaking the rules.
Pledge author Grover Norquist told The Washington Post editorial board that allowing the Bush-era tax cuts to expire would not violate the vow.
“Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Norquist said.
“So it doesn’t violate the pledge?” the editorial board asked.
“We wouldn’t hold it that way,” he replied.
But as he told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing, that doesn’t mean he would support the expiration.
“There’s certain things you could do technically and not violate the pledge but the general public would clearly understand is a tax increase. So I can be clear, Americans for Tax Reform would oppose any effort to weaken, reduce or not continue the 2001-2003 Bush tax cuts, and any changes of taxes should be kept separate from the budget deal,” he explained.
Norquist also says letting the payroll tax cut expire is not a tax hike.
Conservative House Republicans are now saying they will not pass the payroll tax extension because – as Florida Rep. Connie Mack says here – “that’s not fair to the American worker out there.” Mack, as you may know, is the husband of Palm Springs Rep. Mary Bono-Mack.